Well guys, TheChuckwagonisrolling has been shut down. It's still me, but I just felt I needed to change names. As you all know, Chuck has taken the offer to Sac-town. I know we all wish him the best. But man, it just leaves me with this pit in my stomach knowing he's gone. With all the punches we have taken as Rockets fan lately, this one stings the most, but somehow hurts the least. I figured I would just write him a letter, with the super naive hope that he reads The Dreamshake. You will be missed, Chuck Hayes.
With the recent travesty of the nixed trade the Rockets have been dealing with, your departure has flown under the radar for many fans. But Mr. Hayes, your presence will never leave the Toyota Center. Despite being 6'6, nearly half a foot shorter than most centers, you fought toe-to-toe with opponents that simply should have swept the floor with you. But you are tenacious. You are fearless. You refuse to give ground. But more than that, you have heart and class in spades. These traits are what set you aside from the others, and make you my favorite player. I have a Hayes jersey, and it's going up in the "rafters" of my apartment.
My first year to really enjoy sports was in 2005, a freshman in high school. The Rockets just appealed to me for their hard work and ethics. But then, injuries began to accrue. With one player going down, then another, then another, I didn't know if we would be able to field a team by the end of the year. But then, January 18, 2006, they signed an unknown, a Mr. Chuck Hayes from Kentucky, on a ten day contract just to try to put a warm body on the court. You played your ten days, and performed admirably. I have to admit, my man-crush started almost instantly. You fought hard every play. You never took off, even for a split second. I was enraptured by your love of the game and your fierce, but respectful, manner in which you faced your opponents. With most stories, you would be thanked for your service and shown the door. But the story didn't end there. On January 28th, the Rockets claimed they were keeping you around until the end of the year. I was ecstatic. You showed that through hard work, you can accomplish your goals. All that year, I studied your moves. I watched your defensive footwork. I began to mold my style of play around you. I knew I had no hope of going to the NBA. But I wanted to give it my all every game, and respect and be respected by my opponent, win or lose. As the years went by, you remained a cog in the Rockets machine. No matter what, no matter when, I knew that I would see you out there, and you would leave it all on the floor. To me, it wasn't about the winning or losing anymore. It was about the love for the game that you showed every night. And these things go beyond basketball too. For all its crappy metaphors, you can really relate basketball to life. And you knew how to live it.
We all have our quirks we like about you. One friend remembers your wild free-throw shots. One remembers when you showed Kevin Garnett that you are a defense to be reckoned with. Another remembers your triple double. All of these are wonderful memories, and I will always remember them. But for me, I can't place one as my favorite. Each time you dived for a ball, took a charge others would be afraid to take, or refused to give ground while being backed down are the memories I will take with me.
So Chuck, I am going to miss you. Obviously that is an understatement, but I guess it won't hit me until I see you in that purple jersey. It's heart-wrenching to know that the last time I will see you in the red and white has already happened. But at the same time, I wish you the best. All those traits that made me admire you can do a world of difference for Sacramento, and hopefully some fans can hop on the Chuckwagon out west too.
January 13, 2012. Sacramento @ Houston. This is the game I will be waiting for, to see you back in Toyota Center. Granted, I live in Nebraska and unable to attend the game, but you will be receiving a standing ovation in my room, on my little computer streaming the game. Remain the defensive monster you were, the good man you are, and the role model kids like me can look up to. Sure, this may be sappy, and probably very dramatic. But that's exactly what sports are about, isn't it? A passion and a love for something most people don't understand. That's the pinnacle of being a fan. And I am and always will be a Chuck Hayes fan.
With the best regards,
The Chuckwagon has rolled on - formerly TheChuckwagonisrolling